Lawyers Say Chelsea Manning Lacks Financial Capacity to Pay Fines

Alexandria, VA — In a reply brief to be filed later today, Chelsea Manning will propose guidelines for a hearing to assess her financial capacity before Judge Anthony Trenga, who, just over a month ago, ordered her to pay fines that could total up to nearly half a million dollars. These fines were imposed in addition to her incarceration.

While the government has alleged that she has access to resources that would enable her to pay these fines, that perception is simply wrong, say Chelsea and her lawyers. Although prior to her recent confinement, Ms. Manning was able to earn a living from public speaking, she is not a wealthy person, her team says. Records show she was forced to lay off the individual employed by her small business after her incarceration in March, 2019. She has no personal savings, an uncertain speaking career that has been abruptly halted by her incarceration, and is moving her few belongings into storage, as she can no longer afford to pay her rent.

Chelsea — who made exhaustive financial disclosures to the public during her 2018 run for the U.S. Senate — requested an opportunity to share her records with the Court shortly after the imposition of the fines. She will produce documents demonstrating that her current debt and compromised earning capacity have left her balance sheets near zero:

The government, and maybe the general public, think that I have access to resources just because I am a public figure but that’s just not true. Making money has never been my priority.

I do the work I do for the same reason I do everything: because I want to make a difference. Now, my work has been totally interrupted by my incarceration. I definitely feel the costs of these sanctions, but I never expected to have a comfortable life, and I would rather be in debt forever than betray my principles.”

Chelsea E. Manning

Ms. Manning and her legal team argue that, as it stands, the fines imposed are so much greater than her current and potential net worth that she will not be able to pay them in full. Moreover, while corporations are routinely financially sanctioned, it is unheard of for an individual to be hit with such heavy fines, particularly where the underlying matter involves no financial misconduct. For all of these reasons, her lawyers argue, the fines should either be reduced or vacated altogether.  

Furthermore, they argue, Chelsea will sooner bankrupt herself trying to pay these exorbitant fines than cooperate with the grand jury; since these fines will never coerce her cooperation, they are impermissibly punitive. Finally, they ask Judge Trenga to acknowledge that the jail sanction has definitively failed to coerce Chelsea, transforming any further confinement into an illegitimate punishment, rather than a civil sanction.

Past Developments

1. May 31, 2019: Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team Files Motion to Reconsider Sanctions

2. May 23, 2019: Statement from Chelsea Manning and Her Lawyer Regarding Today’s Superseding Indictment

3. May 16, 2019 – Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team Regarding Today’s Grand Jury Hearing:

4. May 12, 2019 – Chelsea on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with Brian Stelter:

5. May 10, 2019– Chelsea’s video statement (with full transcription):

6. May 9, 2019 – Statements from Chelsea and her legal team: Chelsea Manning Released from Alexandria Detention Center After Grand Jury Lapses:

7. May 6, 2019 – Chelsea Manning and her Attorneys File Motion Declaring She will Never Cooperate with Grand Jury:

8. April 22, 2019 – Chelsea Manning and Her Attorneys Respond to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling Affirming Contempt and Continuing Her Detention:

9.  April 1, 2019 – Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Ask Court to Release Her, Pending Appeal, Citing Abuse of District Court Discretion:

10.  March 29, 2019 – Lawyers for Chelsea Manning Ask Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to Void Charges of Civil Contempt:

11. March 23, 2019 – Lawyers and Supporters Condemn Chelsea Manning’s Ongoing Detention Under Solitary Confinement Conditions:

12.  March 8, 2019 – Chelsea Manning’s Support Committee: Manning’s Detention for Refusal to Provide Grand Jury Testimony is Pointless, Punitive, and Cruel:

13. March 6, 2019 – Statement from Chelsea Manning Regarding Grand Jury and Consequences Associated with Her Refusal:

14. March 5, 2019 – Chelsea Manning Continues to Challenge Grand Jury Subpoena, Motion to Quash Denied, Remains Under Seal: